Saturday, 30 January 2016

Warm, sunny days

With Mike on our way to Morgins, the Dents du Midi in the background

The wind direction has changed, another high pressure system has settled over us, the skies have cleared and we’ve had warm, almost hot, sunny days. At first that’s nice, great views, good definition and great snow, but it quickly changes. From -11°C at 1100m on 18th January rapidly increasing to +6°C (in places even into double figures) one week later it is not difficult to imagine what has happened to the snow; it’s disappeared faster than one of Paul Daniels magic tricks! Well, not quite as bad as that, but it is going in that direction.

On top of the Pointe du Nyon with Morzine town far below on R
The powder snow has consolidated into thick concrete like ice in the mornings, making off piste skiing challenging to say the least and, where the sun goes to work, making it very soft and slushy by the afternoon making it heavy to ski on, almost stopping the skis even on steep slopes – most unpleasant. From yesterday the first of many fronts that are forecast came through bringing precipitation, mainly rain to all but higher slopes and with a freezing level hovering between 1800m and 3700m it’s going to be mainly rain until possibly next Thursday. At this rate we might be putting the skis away again until more snow arrives .

Jackie and Mike with Mont Blanc in the distance
However, we have thoroughly enjoyed the conditions while they have lasted and with few people here we’ve enjoyed relatively empty slopes , no queues at ski lifts and clear sunny days. All that coincided with Mike’s visit. An old friend of ours from Solihull Mountaineering Club, he arrived on Monday evening to stay with us in our apartment for 4 nights, so we had three great days skiing with him. Over the years we have done a lot of rock climbing, skiing, ski touring and mountaineering with him, so we know him well and we all get on very well, so even living close together in a small space it was not a problem and we all thoroughly enjoyed it.

It was while we were looking that Mike told us about his ascent of Mont Blanc. He apparently set off from the hut (arrowed) at 3:00am, got to Mont Blanc summit at 6:00am and was back at the hut by 8:00am. Fit or what!! I've put an arrow on the Aiguille du Midi as we've been climbing there
This little train takes skiers the 300m between Mont Chery and Les Gets
Our days were relatively relaxed, we weren’t up and off early, maybe getting on the first lifts around 10:00am and were generally heading down 3:30pm’ish, but between those times we were covering a lot of ground. On Tuesday we did a grand circuit, heading over into Chatel after parking the car in the Ardent car park and heading up from there. 

Couldn't resist a photo of them. Even the Spanish lad waved!
We caught the new ski lifts into Super Chatel and then headed towards Torgon to catch the magnificent views of the Dents du Midi mountains, then headed on to the Swiss resorts of Morgins, through Champossin and Les Crosets, before catching the lift back over into France and back down into the Lindarets bowl and back down to the car – a long but fabulous day on mostly good snow, only the occasional thin covered piste. Wednesday we spent the day in the Morzine, Les Gets and Mont Chery area, ticking off a few black and off piste runs, experiencing our first heavy, wetter snow. 
Mike launching himself out of the slalom starting hut
On Thursday we had a day in the Swiss resort of Les Crosets and the French resort of Avoriaz, finishing with the fabulous off piste black run of ‘Crozats Snowcross’ which goes down a huge wide, steep valley between mountains from the top to the very bottom of Avoriaz. Sadly it was not in great condition, a bit icy so, in places it was quite difficult and energy sapping. Good job we came back to big portions of cake and tea each day, followed by carb loaded meals like Tartiflete and Boeuf Bourguignon cooked by Jackie and bread and butter pudding and apple crumble and custard cooked by Brian, plus of course plenty of wine!

Halfway down the fabulous Crozats Snowcross
We were up early on Friday to see Mike off on the mini bus back to Geneva airport and, after looking at the low cloud and drizzly rain coming out of the sky we had decided to do nothing. However we had Facebook messages from Leanne and Drew saying it was Drew’s birthday and would we like to meet up for a ski. Unenthusiastic we parked the car at Ardent, went up on the lift to meet them and waited 20 minutes under the cover of the lift looking at the drizzle, thinking we would wish him happy birthday and then come down. We even met Andy Cavet, a ski instructor and brother in law of the owner of our apartment, who was waiting under cover for clients to arrive on the lift. ‘Surprised to see you today’ he said ‘if I hadn’t got clients I’d have looked out of the window and turned over in bed!’

The cloud lifting on Friday morning to reveal a beautiful day
Lunch in the sun with Leanne and Drew
In the 20 minute wait the rain virtually stopped and Leanne and Drew’s optimism grew on us and we decided to do a short circuit round to and through Avoriaz. When we reached the top of the resort the sun poked through the clouds and suddenly it looked good so we skied down into Switzerland’s Les Crosets and had some fabulous skiing in bright sunshine, stopping eventually at a piste side bar eating hot dog and chips outdoors in the sun, finishing up with a few more great runs until the cloud came in again and we headed home.  A nice birthday outing for Drew.

A kiss from Leanne for the birthday boy. In the distance and just to the right of Drews head is the notorious 'Swiss Wall' ski run. Very lumpy, very long and very intimidating!
Morzine today (Saturday)
After all the skiing with Mike and then another day with Leanne and Drew we planned a day of nothing today (Saturday), but the forecast said otherwise and when it got light the sun came out and it looked great, albeit a bit windy, so out came the skis and we were off to Nyon for a ski over there and into Les Gets. We did about 2½ hours of skiing, picking out all the best runs and, even though off piste is off the menu until more snow, the pistes are in amazingly good condition and on piste skiing is fabulous. The people who maintain and groom the pistes certainly do magic, we had 2½ hours of perfect, enjoyable skiing!

Tomorrows forecast: all change. A front is due to come through this evening and tomorrow with a large amount of precipitation and a freezing level of 1750m, rising to 2550m. That will be rain in all but the highest places, let’s hope Thursdays forecast of a lower freezing level with precipitation means snow! We’ve planning a late start with brunch and we’ve got a chicken with all the trimmings to roast for dinner and plenty of wine, we don’t care!
Look at these sequence of pictures taken from our apartment balcony at 950m altitude. This one was taken on 16th January
This one on 25th January
And this one today, 30th January. It's the snow vanishing trick!

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